LONDON — London Fashion Week opened on Friday with the arrival of two heavyweights on the catwalk, Emporio Armani and Tommy Hilfiger, to challenge rival cities on the global style circuit.

“London — dynamic, energetic and cosmopolitan — represents global culture,” designer Giorgio Armani said in a statement, describing the British capital as the “perfect setting” to unveil his new collection.

Armani’s Sunday evening slot was a highlight of the 66th London Fashion Week, showcasing a ready-to-wear women’s collection for spring/summer 2018.

The giant of Italian fashion, more used to the catwalks of Milan, will also take the opportunity to open Emporio Armani’s revamped store in the upmarket Mayfair area of central London.

Tommy Hilfiger will close Fashion Week on Tuesday evening, with a show hosted by the Roundhouse arts venue, known for concerts by stars including Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.

“London’s inspiring heritage of fashion and music creates the perfect place to celebrate our next show,” the New York designer told the Web site Women’s Wear Daily.

Armani and Tommy Hilfiger will go some way to boosting the status of London Fashion Week, known for a vibrant community of young designers but apart from Burberry often lacking big names.

“We are extremely proud when international brands choose to show in London,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council which organizes the event.

“The international brands showing here is a proof that our city is an international cultural and creative hub and that it has an important role to play in the global fashion business arena,” she added, in a written note to AFP.

Their inclusion this year is especially welcome given the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union, bringing with it fears of a flight of capital and talent.

While womenswear seems untouched so far by Brexit — sales role by 1.3% to £27.25 billion in 2016 — Rush said there is no room for complacency.

“We are in constant conversation with the government and with the other creative industries when it comes to the Brexit negotiations,” she said.

Rush also has plans to launch a “industrial strategy for fashion” to support the trade in the UK, which employs 880,000 people.

Coming hot off the heels of New York Fashion Week, London will host 85 catwalk shows across the capital. There will be 5,000 guests, among them journalists, buyers and fashionistas all looking at one another.

Saturday saw shows by British prodigies Gareth Pugh and J.W. Anderson, followed by the hot ticket Burberry at the end of the day.

It was the first collection by the quintessentially British brand since the arrival of new president Marco Gobbetti, former chairman of French luxury brand Celine.

Gobbetti has been tasked with reviving Burberry which has suffered from stagnation.

New York brand Nicopanda was to unveil a six-piece streetwear collection on Saturday, created for Amazon Fashion, a new initiative for the online marketplace which will see the clothes go on sale at the end of the show.

In addition to Armani, Sunday will see shows by Topshop, Versus Versace — the Italian company’s second brand — as well as contemporary line MM6 from Parisian label Maison Martin Margiela. — AFP